Daniel Carrasco and Federico Martin Gioja of Miramar, Florida were arrested Wednesday after they were accused of running a Spanish-speaking telemarketing fraud operation, according to a press release by the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of Florida. Carrasco and Gioja were booked into the Broward County Main Jail on multiple federal fraud charges. It was not known at press time whether the defendants qualified for bail bond. Reports did not specify whether either the defendants had hired a defense lawyer.
According to the press release, Carrasco and Gioja bother operated companies that fraudulently claimed to be a partner of Univision, a Spanish-language TV network; Univision got wind of the scheme and told police, resulting in the investigation. Sources say the defendants changed the names of these companies regularly to avoid detection, referring to names that had been used for too long and riddled with customer complaints as “burnt.” Some of these rotating names reportedly included Danmar Investments Group, Cargio Investments, Sial Inc., Brasan Inc., Amlab, and American Trading and Sales Corp. All of the companies, despite the name changes, allegedly continued with the same illegal practices. Detectives have since filed a restraining order that shut down the offending businesses.
Reports say the defendants’ businesses hired telemarketers from Argentina, working out of a phone room located in that country, to contact potential victims. Those telemarketers, using the guise that they were affiliated with Univision, would allegedly claim to be selling products such as medical insurance, vitamins, lotions, and English language learning tools. The release did not mention where the operation acquired their telephone numbers.
The defendants allegedly did not have most of the products they promised to customers and would send other products instead. Customers, once they received the wrong order, would often refuse the shipment. The telemarketers would then use questionable techniques to get the customers to pay, threatening utility bill fines, phony arrest warrants, or even deportation. In one instance, a telemarketer allegedly told a victim that if she did not pay $479 for vitamins, she would be slapped with a $5,000 lawsuit. Gioja reportedly approved of these tactics on some occasions, referring to intimidating customers with a fine as a “healthy squeeze” in email communications.
“These defendants specifically targeted Spanish-speaking victims, pretending to be affiliated with the Univision television network, to sell their products from their phone room in Argentina,” said the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida in the release. “In fact, however, the defendants had absolutely no connection to Univision, and their companies did not deliver the products ordered by consumers. As this case illustrates, the U.S. Attorney’s Office is committed to investigating and prosecuting fraudsters, both domestic and international, whose schemes defraud American consumers.”
It is not yet clear how much money the defendants are suspected of collecting through the fraudulent operation, nor is it known whether any of the victims have any hopes of getting their money back. It remains to be seen whether any of the victims will file for damages.